Infiniti JX Hybrid prototype, Nissan GranDrive test track, Oppama, Japan, Oct 2012Enlarge Photo
One advantage to using a modified version of the company’s CVT is that the transmission has been designed to permit a power takeoff for all-wheel drive—meaning that, like the Lexus RX, the hybrid JX can be offered in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive variations.
The all-wheel-drive JX Hybrid, however, will have all four wheels driven mechanically—like the AWD version of the late Ford Escape Hybrid—rather than using an electric motor on the rear axle as the Lexus does. This may give the AWD system more power in situations like deep mud or boggy ground, where the Lexus rear motor could shut down to protect itself from overheating.
Is it ‘hybrid enough’?
We expect the JX Hybrid to find a ready market among buyers seeking a hybrid luxury crossover—who now have only a single choice, the Lexus RX 450h.
But we wonder whether Infiniti’s seven-seat hybrid utility vehicle will be perceived as “hybrid enough” by buyers familiar with the RX 450h, which can move away from a stop electrically under light loads, and switches off its engine to run electrically often at lower speeds.
While the modified JX is technically a full hybrid, since the electric motor can propel the vehicle under at least some circumstances, it behaves more like Honda’s line of mild hybrids. In those vehicles, the electric motor only adds boost to the engine output, and the engine runs every time the car has to move.
It may be that a Hybrid badge on the tailgate and improved fuel economy are enough to make the model a viable contender.
But the prototype Infiniti JX Hybrid raises a question—how do buyers expect a hybrid to behave?—that will only be answered once it goes on sale.
Infiniti didn’t give a date for the launch of the JX Hybrid, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it arrived about a year from now as a 2014 model.
Nissan provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-hand report.